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How To Get Rid of Acne Once and for All

Adult acne is just another cruel reminder that no matter how much we think we have our act together as functioning adults in society, at the end of the day, we’re all just moody, hormonal teenagers whose self-esteem can instantly shatter at the sight of a spot. It doesn’t matter how old or how successful you are, acne knows whenever you have a big presentation or a wedding to attend, and it waits until 24 hours before your event to rear its ugly head.

Acne comes on quickly and can be incredibly temperamental. One day you’ll be staring in the mirror admiring your own reflection like the villain in a Disney movie and the next day you’ll wake up to an angry volcano ready to burst. Stress, diet, and any new products you put on your skin can cause it to freak out at the drop of a hat. Limiting your stress, watching your diet, and using the right skincare products all sound like great advice, but the are a little more difficult to actually put into practice. As these variables change, so will your acne, but like the rest of life, it’s a balancing act you get better at with time.

While there’s no age limit for acne, there are certain strategies and practices you can deploy at the first sign of a zit to shorten its residency on your face. Whether you’re suffering from maskne, back acne, or acne scarring, these blemishes can be a real bummer. To find out how to get rid of acne fast, we spoke to Dr. Orit Markowtiz, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in New York City.

What Is Acne?

Acne presents itself in a variety of different ways, but at its core, acne is a buildup of keratin in the skin. When that keratin is exposed to the air, it appears as a blackhead, and if not exposed to the air, it appears as a white head.

“When there are extra sebum and oil, the acne will flourish, and that’s when you see the pink bumps on top of the skin,” says Dr. Markowitz. “Cystic acne is a type of acne that involves little capsules that form under the skin when the keratin grows substantially and gets infected.”

If the acne you get as an adult doesn’t look like the kind of acne you got when you were a teenager, that’s totally normal according to Dr. Markowitz. “When speaking to adult acne in particular we are commonly talking about milia, which are small, bump-like cysts that are found under the skin,” she says. “These form when skin flakes or the keratin becomes trapped under the skin.”

If you want to get rid of acne quickly, the following overnight and spot treatments can significantly reduce the lifespan of your zit.

Fast-Acting Acne Treatments

Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Acne Pimple Patch Spot Treatment

Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Acne Pimple Patch Spot Treatment

Pimple patches are like Bandaids made especially to treat your acne, which makes sense because acne is an infected wound. These circular patches work by using hydrocolloid gel agents to pull out all the oil and pus from your spot until the bandage turns white and the patch has fully absorbed your zit. Gross, but it works. Wear overnight and wake up with a significantly reduced spot size.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

This Pepto-Bismol-like solution contains salicylic acid, sulfur, and calamine to zap your zit fast. The small bottle contains a bi-phase solution designed to work together to target whiteheads while you sleep. As tempting as it might be, do NOT shake the bottle. Simply dip a cotton bud straight into the solution and apply it on any active pimples.

Glossier Zit Stick

Glossier Zit Stick

This is a zip-zapping secret weapon. While most of the products on this list need to be applied at night, this on-the-go treatment can travel discreetly in a pocket or travel bag to treat pimples at any time of the day. Made with 5% benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, and capryloyl salicylic acid, you can apply this pen up to three times a day to shrink blemishes and minimize swelling from pimples.

The INKEY List Succinic Acid Acne Treatment

If your skin is sensitive to acne spot treatments, this gentle yet effective spot treatment might be the ticket. Featuring 2% succinic acid and 1% salicylic acid, this solution clears up pimples fast without being too overly drying. It hydrates with the support of hyaluronic acid, so it’s great for dry, flakey skin.

iNNBEAUTY Pimple Paste Overnight Drying Paste

If you’ve heard of (or even tried) that old wives’ tale of putting toothpaste on a pimple overnight to get rid of it fast, this treatment is similar but made with ingredients that are actually good for your skin and proven to treat pimples. Willow bark, a natural alternative to salicylic acid, along with sulfur, clay, and thyme unclog pores, absorb excess oil, and kill blemish bacteria without irritating your skin. Not only does it help treat active pimples, but it helps prevent new ones from cropping up, too. Apply a thin layer onto your spot or a larger area overnight and watch your acne shrink in size.

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